Monthly Archives: August 2011

Just So You Know

Those battery-powered mole repelling vibrating gadgets that you put in the ground to rid your yard of moles – they don’t work. At all. I put four in part of the yard as a trial before I bought more and well after the “give it a few weeks to work” period the package suggested, I had a brand new mole run that went right by one of them. Two more inches one way and he would have had to circle around the vibrator.

Another Good Article on the Debt

This time in Salon (emphasis added).

According to Congressional Budget Office projections, had the nation maintained the fiscal course the Clinton administration laid out, the national debt everybody rants about would have been retired by 2009.

See, that’s the real cost of George W. Bush’s magical thinking. By any rational accounting, Bush and the GOP Congress that gave him everything he wanted from 2001 to 2007 should be held responsible for the entire $10.6 trillion national debt — along with the $1.3 trillion yearly deficit they handed to Obama, as well as the Wall Street crisis and bank bailouts.

It’s that simple: With no Bush income tax cuts, no unfunded Medicare drug benefit, and no off-budget Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the U.S. balance sheet would have been in fine shape for his successor. Then government investment needed to rescue the economy from the doldrums wouldn’t have seemed so alarming.

See, that’s how Keynesian macroeconomics is supposed to work. Pay down the debt in good times, spend on job creation and tax cuts when people are hurting and the private economy’s sucking wind. This mysterious “confidence” everybody talks about? What it amounts to is money in people’s pockets. Economically speaking, there’s no other kind.

Go read the whole thing. Go on, I’ll still be here when you’re done. I’m taking a nap right now.

Stocks Sink As Market Fears Mount

From the L.A. Times:

Investors are spooked by the prospect of even modest bederal budget cuts in an anemic recovery

Two years after the last recession ended, Wall Street is showing rising fear that the U.S. economy could be headed for a new downturn….Despite some relief that Washington could forge an eleventh-hour compromise on the debt ceiling, analysts said the prospect of even modest federal budget cuts in an anemic economy was spooking markets.

“Investors are looking past the budget situation and realizing this is an austerity plan,” said Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at Harris Private Bank in Chicago. “We have an economy that’s struggling to stay afloat and we don’t have the ammunition to keep prodding it forward.”

So, either people who invest in the stock market are wrong (and that’s really everyone with money) or the Tea Party people who think we need to cut spending are wrong. My money is on the tea party being wrong. Sadly, also my retirement money is invested in this situation.

Would You Like a Dip With That Recession

The good news is that unemployment claims are slightly lower last week so fewer people are being added to the unemployment rolls but the employment numbers still aren’t good. When it comes to the economy for the last few recessions, at least, what pulls the country back on its feet is its people. We buy things we need (or want). As a result, companies produce a little more to keep up with the demand and they’ll hire people to help fill that demand. Like a snowball on a good slope picks up bulk as it rolls downhill, the economy picks up strength as it rolls forward.

That’s not happening now, though, at either end of the spectrum. We the people aren’t buying much more than we have to for the most part and as a result, companies aren’t making more, which means they aren’t hiring more. No amount of personal income tax reductions will counteract that. The median wage is under $40,000, as I recall. Half our population makes less than that. Even if it’s one of the lower half getting that new job, their wages and benefits will cost in the neighborhood of $52,000. You may run with a different crowd than I do, but I don’t know any people who a) pay that much in taxes to start with; or b) are going to get a tax cut like that.

It will take that big a tax cut to pay for one position or that much in increased business (or the potential of it increasing more than that) before it’s worth adding that new employee. If people aren’t buying what companies make in high enough quantities , companies aren’t going to hire. If people don’t have jobs or are just getting by, they’re not going to be spending as much. So people aren’t spending more than they have to and neither are companies. So, who does that leave that could buy things or hire people? Surely there’s some segment of the economy that could do that. What else is left?

During the Great Depression, it was the government that did it. My father-in-law and his father both got jobs with the WPA during the depression. My father-in-law, who wasn’t even 20 yet, got a job grading out the road they lived on. He used a team of mules pulling a grader. It was the only job he could get and what he and his father and his older sister, who taught school, brought home kept that family alive and sheltered until the world went to war and everyone had jobs.

Now, because our debt levels are too high, that’s an option not likely to be available to us. I understand how people can worry about the debt, because there is a lot of it . It makes sense we’d have to pay for it sooner or later, but we’ve had relatively large debt (when compared to the average American family’s income, the debt per person is less than the average annual income) for three or four generations. And Congress has been running on a Scarlett O’Hara mindset for over 100 years (Well, fiddle-dee-dee. I’ll worry about that tomorrow.) so giving them money is like letting foxes into the hen house. “That’s not pork, it’s a bridge for my home town.” So who does that leave to rescue us?

Oh, yes, our global friends. Right. Let’s hold our collective breaths and wait. If there’s nobody to make the economy better, odds are it’s not going to happen magically.

WalMart Left Me Voicemail

Minor update: Turns out it was Krogers, not WalMart. Oops, sorry Krogers for confusing you with the behemoth.

We made some short road trips this weekend and yesterday once we got home, there was a message on the answering machine. Walmart had called to let us know that the cat food we recently purchased had been recalled. It was Purina One Vibrant Maturity cat food, with particular codes on the bag and some bags were infected with salmonella.

That was good to know (and the cat will appreciate it, I’m sure). But then I stopped to think about it.

  • Walmart kept track of the brand of cat food.
  • Because we’d used a debit card, they not only knew what we purchased, and recorded it for posterity, but they knew who had bought it.
  • They were able to use this information to cross-check with other records in their system to find our phone number, call it and leave a message.

If Walmart is doing that, I’m sure so is Kroger and who knows which other vendors. George Orwell worried about big government being Big Brother. His worries should have been focused on big business, it seems.